I’ve got to hand it to Maroon 5 – eight years and three studio albums on, they are still the kings of mainstream pop. With hits as big as “This Love,” “Sunday Morning” and “She Will Be Loved,” Maroon 5 set a very high bar for themselves with their multi-platinum debut album, “Songs About Jane” (2002). While chock-full of big beats and groovy guitar riffs, their second studio album, “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” (2007), did not quite have the impact of their first release, leaving some fans worried about the future of the band. With their latest album, “Hands All Over,” Maroon 5 has made a comeback from their three-year hiatus to prove that they are still alive and kicking.
Front man Adam Levine has always had a knack for writing hypnotic hooks and relentlessly catchy choruses. He does not fail to deliver on “Misery,” the opening track of “Hands All Over” and the most stereotypically Maroon 5-sounding song on the album. There is no accusing the band of producing more of the same this time, however, as the rest of the tracks on “Hands All Over” showcase a variety of different sounds and influences, and see the band delving into genres they had previously left untouched. The addictive guitar riffs skillfully spun by guitarist James Valentine are still present in force, as is the sultry verve of Levine’s falsetto, but the band now sports a more polished sound. This glossy finish is largely thanks to producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who is best known for his work with rock legends AC/DC and Def Leppard and country crooner Shania Twain.
The true novelty of this album lies not in its production, but in the radical departure from Maroon 5’s former “funk rock” sound. Following “Misery’s” bridging of the stylistic gap between “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” and “Hands All Over,” the band uses the rest of the tracks to assert their musical versatility.
To start, the second track on the album, “Give A Little More,” has a sunny soulfulness to it reminiscent of the early days of Motown. The subsequent song, “Stutter,” boasts a grandiose pop sound that channels the melodic flair of former “American Idol” contestant Adam Lambert and marks an audible shift in sound. “Don’t Know Nothing” is a beautifully-layered track backed by a recurring piano motif and upbeat harmonies. Rumored to be the next single off this album, “Never Gonna Leave This Bed” is a moving song with nostalgic melodies suggestive of The Fray, and it definitely deserves more than one listen. “Hands All Over,” the title track, is a suitably rocky anthem with a driving drum beat that begs to be blasted and is sure to get your head bobbing.
Appearing later in the album, “How” and “Last Chance” serve as reminders of Levine’s great ability to write love songs that are anything but cringe-worthy. One of the closing tracks, “Out of Goodbyes,” merits a mention as well. A duet with Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, this song marks Maroon 5’s foray into country music. Although one would never associate Levine’s jaunty tenor with the country genre, his voice complements Scott’s nicely, and the crossover tune could very well be the next hit on both the country and pop charts.
The deluxe version of “Hands All Over” features a few acoustic versions of album songs, as well as a live cover of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” all of which further reinforce Maroon 5’s raw musical talent.
From start to finish, “Hands All Over” is a wonderfully surprising compilation of musical genres, likeable lyrics and memorable melodies. Maroon 5 has more than proved that they deserve their place at the top of the world of mainstream music, without selling out to the gimmicks that propel many of today’s artists to the top of the charts. So grab your copy of “Hands All Over,” crank up your stereo and get used to the new sound of success: “This Love” is one that’s here to stay.